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Burned Out Pack Mentality Leads To Failure - 33%

OzzyApu, January 1st, 2013

When I first heard this album, I had one major complaint. Where did all that intensity go? Even counting the Mika Tönning era, there was this distressing tension and energizing zest that kept each album minutely distinct or on a whole different performance plateau. Something about those albums (even the bad ones) were undoubtedly the melodic black metal band that still had something to say. That melodic black / death / power metal vibe from those albums is still here in the safe form of melodic death, but it mostly sounds dry and with no direction to keep it interesting.

Losing their keyboard abilities means losing a primary element to the band's sound - atmosphere. While not essential on its own to produce enchanting backdrops and whatnot, Catamenia is a band with a formula that doesn't capture the same charm with core instruments alone. In fact, the very subtraction of the keys has left the band drained of the life, much like how Stratovarius' self-titled album was a dull, lifeless crock of shit. Somewhere between losing expressive band members, the writing, and the recording, Catamenia fucked up big time in delivering something that ends up being nothing except an imitation of their sound. The focus shifts from sleek and monumental to run-of-the-mill melodic death.

With poor inspiration comes meager production (odd since they went through essentially the same process). The album is marked with scratchy playing, weak distortion, flimsy bass support, and a dull vocal performance. Sad as shit, since the previous album had the strongest vocal performances by the band in their entire career. The band loses Mustonen as their frontman and with him goes the acidic, nasty screams. They're replaced by strained, frail harsh gurgle / screams subdued by the scuffling music.

Take the plodding "Fallen" peeling off the fervor of "Coldbound" from the previous album as an example of a shadow of the band's own material. A simple structure with piercing vocals, catchy leads, and a memorable chorus made "Coldbound" an inspirational, almost regal, example of melodic black metal with some teeth to it. "Fallen" on the other hand is a muddy mess with no backbone and pathetic vocals with no hook. Vähäkuopus struggles with giving a compelling performance through his own strained, accented cleans that bellowed proudly on Location: COLD. This clumsy fight for the glory of mediocrity is embarrassing, and that's what every song here amounts to being at best.

It's not even the lack of keyboards at fault, since the same blast beat toiling, riff blitzkrieg formula hasn't gone anywhere. The energy in "Uhrimalja" and "Road Of Bones" and rummaging of character throughout the album are proof that there was a major disconnect with the execution of enthusiastic ideas overall. The foundation is still here to prop up this untidy jumble, but it needs the proper direction to give it a voice. The band hasn't deviated too far, but somehow the appeal of what made this era of Catamenia so cool is gone.